Secret Lessons – Driving Instructors Share Stories, Tips, and Advice to Pass Your Practical Driving Test
Momentum Driving School has instructors all over the UK and we have helped thousands of learner drivers pass their practical exam. If you added up the career experience of all our driving instructors you would end up with centuries worth of experience.
In all of that time, we’ve picked up some interesting stories. Our instructors also have some of the best advice available for the nervous learner driver. It’s high time we told a few of those stories and shared that advice.
The Good Luck Charm
Our experienced driving instructors will be the first ones to tell you that when it comes to passing your driving exams, luck has little to do with it. But that doesn’t stop some student drivers from bringing along their personal good-luck charms now and again.
It’s fairly common for learners to bring along things like a lucky coin, or a necklace for protection. One of our students came for his exam in a pair of fuzzy animal-head slippers that just made him feel more comfortable. We even get the occasional driver that brings a special mix-tape of music to drive by. But – by far – the most common lucky charm is still a blanket they’ve kept since childhood.
As far as we’re concerned, if it makes you feel better about things, by all means – bring that lucky blanket and your favorite tunes. But we’ll still help you learn what you need to know to pass your exam and drive safely just in case.
More common than the good luck charm is the learner who needs a bit of moral support. So they bring along a good friend or family member to help them keep steady. It’s almost always either a parent – their Mum or Dad – a close Friend, or their boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse.
We understand. And it’s not really a problem. But the truth of the matter is that – most of the time – bringing someone along just makes the learner more nervous because they feel pressured to perform well with that friend or loved one looking on. Our instructors are there to help and encourage you to, and we’ll give you the tools you need to succeed at the same time.
Most Interesting Ride-Along
Sometimes students bring along a person for far more practical reasons. One learner brought along a twelve-year-old boy from his neighbourhood because that boy was the only person the learner knew who could speak English and he needed a translator – obviously not an optimal situation. We’ve even had our share of new Mums who bring along their infant children (if you do, remember to bring along a regulation car seat).
But there are also a few times when the ride-along took our instructors by complete surprise. One of our instructors was met at the car at the lesson time by his personal dentist. It seems that the learner driver that day was the dentist’s daughter. And another time the instructor looked into the rear-view mirror to see his grade-school teacher – who was the student’s grandfather.
The Most Common Challenges for Learner Drivers
So, what techniques do students tend have the most trouble with when learning to drive? The answer to this question is not clear cut. It seems that everyone has a different challenge to learn. But there are a few items that are just a bit more common than the others.
It’s totally understandable. Roundabouts require concentration, observation, timing, and the confidence to act. Regular intersections can be intimidating enough when half the cars are stopped. At a roundabout, everything is in motion. If this is your pain-point, don’t worry. We’ll teach you the techniques and you’ll be handling them like a champ with a little practice. And there are some resources online for you to review as well.
Reversing Around Corners
If our drivers were forced to pick just one maneuver or technique that is the most challenging, reversing around corners would be number one. In general, all reversing maneuvers require more patience and practice. But the reverse around a corner seems to take new drivers a bit more time to master than the others.
Sometimes the challenge is not a “driving” technique at all. The one that our instructors mentioned over and over again was awareness. This covers things like alertness, forward planning, and actively observing the other cars on the road.
Driving requires a level of concentration that most people just aren’t used to. And drivers need to be able to hold that concentration for the entire length of the trip. This takes some getting used to. You might see an experienced driver talking about other things or listening to the radio while driving. But every successful driver took some time to get to that point. With every successful driver, awareness has become a habit and – even if it doesn’t show – driving is the first priority in their brain.
It will be a habit for you too. Just be ready for it, practice, pay attention, and take your time.
When Driving Is All In Your Head
Time and again our instructors have noticed that some of the obstacles faced by beginner drivers are in their head – the misconceptions and misperceptions that just are not helpful most times. There are four very common ways this occurs.
Trying to Please
The first is that it’s not uncommon for learner drivers to be trying too hard to please the driving examiner when taking their test. Yes, you want the examiner to be generally pleased with you, but they are ultimately only interested in determining if you have learned and practiced enough to be a safe driver. Worrying about each and every little thing just gives the student more stress.
Destined To Fail
Others come in to the exam with the belief that the examiner “wants” them to fail from the start. We’ve never found this to be true. The examiners that we have worked with all want the practical exam experience to be as easy and stress free as is possible. Their number one goal is to do their best to make sure that you are ready to get behind the wheel and drive safely – for your sake and for everyone else on the road.
If a student learner comes in thinking that the examiner has a secret, negative agenda, it puts a barrier of wills and nerves in between the student and passing their test.
Driving Like Dad
No two drivers do everything exactly the same. Everyone needs to drive safely and follow all the laws, but some students come in trying to drive like someone else. It’s totally fine to pick up good driving habits from family and friends. But you shouldn’t try to mimic their exact behaviors and motions – it takes your mind off the road and what you are really trying to do, which is to be fully aware of what’s going on around your and drive safely.
I Got This
Lastly, some learner drivers are over-confident – thinking that they come to their driving lessons ready to go. Everyone starts their lessons at a different skill level. Most have already been practicing a bit. But our instructors know what it takes to be a safe driver and they also know what the examiners are looking for. Remember … they’ve done it hundreds of times. They want to see you pass your exams. They’ll let you know when you are ready, and you should trust them if they caution that you’re not.
Show And Tell
In school, “show and tell” is an activity of presenting things you like in front of the class. When you are taking your Practical Driver Exam, “Show-me Tell-me” questions are verbal requests made by the examiner to test some basic car knowledge. Students usually get one question before the driving portion of the exam begins and a second request while driving.
Our instructors will prepare you for all the most common “Show-me Tell-me” possibilities. But the two that seem to confuse the most students are “tire safety” and “demist.”
Tyre Safety questions come during the pre-drive portion of the exam and involve understanding how to determine if the tires on your car are safe. This includes things like tread depth, general condition, and inflation pressure. Sometimes learners are so focused on the physical driving part of the exam that they don’t pay enough attention to these points and get a bit flustered when asked. Your instructor will tell you everything you need to know, but you can also find decent tips at the TyreSafe charity website.
Our drivers tell us that the most confusing part of “Show-me Tell-me” from the driving portion of the exam is demisting. And some of that confusion is in the word itself, because people call it different things in different places. What you need to know is how to use your car’s wipers and defogger/defrost controls while driving to keep your window clear. This is important because windows can be fine one moment and then fog up the next when weather conditions change.
The point is, know where the controls for these things are and how to use them comfortably while the car is in motion. Our instructors will help you practice it.
The Best Advice There Is
Our instructors really want you to succeed, and they know that you can do it. We asked them for their best piece of advice to have a successful lesson and practical driving exam. Here is a sample of what they said:
- Get a good night’s sleep before each lesson and before your exam.
- Keep calm and take your time.
- Review the Highway Code materials and watch the videos a few minutes each day.
- Don’t worry about small mistakes. Everyone makes a few.
- Try to enjoy the process.
But by far, the top two pieces of advice from our driving instructors are:
Relax … your instructor will keep you safe.
Practice, practice, practice
As always, we’re here to help. Let us know if you have any questions.